Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finished with Finish

Well, I've now finished the rod. It's done. I've actually built my first rod after all the talking, reading, planning, more talking--I completed #1. Whew! It took way longer than it should have; I had to re-do more than even I expected. And the kicker is that it'll be a while before I can justify taking an 8wt out on the Missouri waters. Oh well, I will anyway. Here are some finish photos:

The seat is a basic milled aluminum job that I probably should have inletted, but decided I'd better just finish a rod before I start that sort of thing. Next time.... That is the Konic 3.5 that will spool this beast; love the Konics. It balances the rod just right, which means I'm glad I didn't inlet the grip. That EVA fighter will get replaced with a cork one; I just have to make it after the rings arrive. I'm thinking of chopping the end of this butt and capping the cork one with it.

Here's the finish on the wraps without CP. I figured not using it would give me the dark and semi-translucent look I was after--it worked perfectly. The color of the thread is now a shade darker than the blank and reveals the guide feet nicely. I'm pretty happy with it.

Beginning to fulfill her destiny. I just cannot wait to cast this rod and compare it to the 'glass 8wt. Even with the slightly heavy reel, and loaded with guides and finish, this rod is SO much lighter.

I made enough mistakes along the way, but I'm happy I did--fewer to remake next time. There are some small details that I will do better next time or just differently, but this rod is ready to fish and will probably outlast me. A pro rod-builder I am not (yet), but I'm addicted to the job anyway. Love it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The latest from Barelyatall

I am taking the advice of some wiser-than-me fishermen and am heading out to trout tomorrow on a day off, but I figured some readers may want to see what life has produced in Barelyatall as of late. Here are some simple and, honestly, pretty poor photos of my baby. After it's done, I'll post photos of the rest of it; for now I'll just highlight the wraps.

Here's the bench that has been re-purposed into a rod-building metropolis. I love getting this thing messy and covered in thread bits, tape, and whatever else I'm doing that particular day.

Hook keep and cheap winding check. One thing I did not do on this first rod was drop a lot of cash. I figured I'd screw up at every turn and I was basically right; this is the Professor Rod since it's taught me so much. Very fun. It's a Sevier Salt 9' 8wt that I will use a bunch in the surf and for freshwater carping next year. I'll miss the 'glass 8wt in my heart, but my arm won't miss it one bit.

The wrapping was probably my favorite part, especially sprinkling the trims around on the hook keep, first stripper (this has two, a 16 and a 12), ferrule and tiptop.

The rod is complete, but as you can see I haven't applied the finish to the wraps. I hope to tackle that tonight. I'm opting to fore go CP, so we'll see how that turns out. I definitely think the "dark brown" thread needs to be darker (much darker) and it seems the skipping of CP is the way to get there. Plus, I have always liked the look of the guidefeet being visible.

My next rod, which is on its way to my abode now, will be a Batson Forecast 6'6" 2wt. I'm still not comfy dropping mad cash on any component, and I've heard amazing reviews about Batson IM6 blanks. I just wish it weren't blue! Photos on that after some time in Catching.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Lapse in Sanity

The past few weeks, as you know, I haven't posted a letter on fishing (or anything). The reason for that is my lapse back into the land of Barelyatall, spending most of my time in the city of Fishing.

Fishing, Barelyatall is a sad place, and it's one that I hope to leave soon. Before I can go, I have to do more work on the house before winter shuts me down on exterior work.

Just because there isn't any fishing in Fishing (strange, isn't it?) doesn't mean I have been totally unproductive. I've gotten two rods to the guide wrapping stage (ruined one because of a dumbass mistake with epoxy; won't do that again!). Learning to build rods has been very enjoyable...and very humbling. This is the first new pursuit I've undertaken in a long time, and it's a little refreshing and a little stinging to feel what it feels like to make mistakes again while learning something from the start (seasoned mistakes are constant companions, though). I'm glad I started which inexpensive components! I'll try to get some photos up when there's something worth showing.

I'm ready to go to the sister city Fishing that is in the neighbouring country of A Lot. Fishing, A Lot is a much happier city.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Technomologimical Oddities

My two best buds that I fish with both have iPhones. I love having
guys on trips with iPhones because that means I have access to Pandora
and good maps in the car. But the text messages (usually related to
fishing) are sometimes...unclear. Here are some recent examples:

CHRIS: "I have your grottoes" trying to tell me I left my waders in his car

RON: "bladders" trying to tell me he cant go fishing because of class

CHRIS: "I see you in cah" trying to tell me...I don't even know what.

CHRIS: "Igbo can come over" trying to tell me he might come over for
beers. I now call him "Igbo."

My wife also sent me one today...she was trying to say "great idea"
but it came out as something too dirty for this non-adult-rated blog.

I love iPhones. I love their messages even more.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Heading on Down

The parallel is too obvious for me to go into loathsome detail about, but there is a striking similarity between a person's life...and a stream.

A number of rivers, creeks and streams I've been on recently have been new to me. While on the water, I only rarely carry or refer to a map (if one is even available). Often, the fishing or just the surroundings are so captivating that I get very near-sighted. That has resulted in countless close-calls and trips, but it also has given me a moment-by-moment way of being on the water. That way of being inevitably leads to never quite knowing what will be up ahead, what will be brought to sight from another few steps downstream. Bends that shoot to the left have never given me warning, either on the stream or in life. They're a thing of beauty when fishing, but not always so when not. Having reality take radically new directional bents can be tiresome, stressful and confusing. I'd love life to go straight ahead all the time, at least then maybe I could see more than 50' of what's coming.

Those bends, though, are where the fishing is. Arrow-straight runs are great, especially if they're a bit roughened by a lively stream-bed or a small fall or two. The bends are more dynamic, and they always produce more fish for me. The difference between a pleasant, watery bend and a frightening, real-life bend seems to be rooted in a few different places. I let go of control when fishing, relishing all the ways I find myself on the edge of it; life, though, at least a good "American" one, is not one to be--we are taught--left to an uncontrolled state. I've been a very good American.

The bends come, though. Oh do they come. And it is in the head of those bends that I am met with uncontrolled water. It is water that misbehaves and cuts the bank, rushing forward in one spot and rushing back in a spiraling whirl in another. The very question of what to do is out of control--"Do I follow the water or do I continue straight?" If I follow the water I continue to fish, and that is a certain continuity in its own right. If I go straight, I leave the water but continue my direction. Bends, wet or dry, propose questions that demand a decision on which continuity takes priority. I have recently realized that the most important question for me to ask in light of that first question is: "Am I here for the sake of the water or am I just passing through?" If I am on the stream-path for the sake of doing what can only be done in a stream, then I had better well follow that bend. If I am only passing through, then its really only a matter of utility that I ever entered the water, and getting back out to continue straight bears no penalty.

I have never once dipped into water for the sake of reaching land, though. It is quite the other way around. I take all bends with rod in hand; I'm learning to take all bends...period, though. There is a paradox of being flexible and deathly stubborn at once. Directionally, even circumstantially, I have had to learn to be flexible on the water, going left or straight or right without question. There is a stubbornness there too, though; I've set myself to following the stream, to following where the fish live. I'm not sure if that should be said as stubbornly flexible or flexibly stubborn, but both elements have to be in you. They cannot, I've found, be isolated or ignored.

I've made the mistake before, and still suffer from the syndrome of making it now, of confusing the path with the destination (and vice-versa). I've even become so focused on the destination that I've gotten upset over the path, forgetting its necessity and ability to result in a destination. That aside, knowing to certainty one's own destination is usually impossible; it has been for me. That's why I'm writing right now.

These days, in life, I'm choosing to fish the water down from the bend. I'm fishing the water in the bend one step down at a time; I'll reach new water beyond what I can see any moment now. There are casts to be made, fish to catch and fish to lose, and water to leak into my waders. I can see the dry land that went straight, some of my friends are up there. Their waders aren't leaking, but I don't think they came to fish. I did, though, and I like it. I can't say what's around the arching corner, but I know it's wild down there and I know it's what my life will be if I just keep fishing. I'll get there eventually, and I might even find a calm stretch to patch up my waders.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Catch of a Lifetime

I thought it was about time I told a story from a few years back about a fish that I continue to regard as my best catch ever. Fishermen love stories. I love hearing them above almost all other stories--the details, the excitement or grief on the face of the teller, the suspense and, most of all, the way a good story draws the listener into a moment forever frozen in time. This time, though, is my turn to be the teller.

It was March 18th 2006; the evening was an impromptu trip close to home. As dark settled on the water and night began to take hold, the fish swam by me close enough that I could get a decent look. The first thought I had was not one of catching it; the fish was beyond me and I knew it. My first thought was, "I want to catch a fish like that one day." The idea then sank in that "one day" may be "this day." I knew then that this fish would be life-changing...if I could hook up with it. I don't often hear it mentioned by others, but I often experience an acute sense of pressure and excitement in these situations--just the idea of casting to an amazing fish. The world seems to shrink exponentially from the moment of sighting, the preparation, the cast and drift planning, and finally--the cast itself.

I took my time on the planning stage, even collecting myself with enough dignity and self-restraint to hold off slinging my line too soon. A few moments of careful watching, something akin to studying, and a short while considering the implications of all the possible outcomes: hooking and landing, hooking and losing, never hooking at all. I knew I was in over my head with this fish; my equipment was barely more than an insult to it, my abilities were shamefully exactly an insult. I didn't deserve to land this fish, or even hook it; the dignity that I had just formed in the moment would not, however, let me go without a few hopeful attempts. Unanswerable questions loomed: "Was this fish even feeding; was it just caught and released or lost moments ago and now ultra-wary; was it an educated monster that by wit and experience had grown to this size by eluding or escaping every previous fishermen?" Unanswerable questions.

And so it went, a fly selected based on limited knowledge gained in the short moments I forced myself to pause, and one aimed cast with a clumsy and quick presentation. Honestly, my confidence in moment consisted more of a request--"Please take this fly, please!"--rather than a delicate and sophisticated offer--"Take this if you like; I doubt you'll be able to resist."

My stress in the situation of earnestly trying to catch this specific fish was heightened by the presence of other fishermen in the area. Perhaps you've experienced the sense of needing to be stealthy and aloof-seeming around other fishermen; the last thing you want to do is tip them off to the fact that there is an epic-class fish in the area that may actually be catchable. One of the fishermen, I thought, had an eye on "my" fish; worse, I thought that "my" fish may be more tempted by the offerings of that next-closer fisherman. Not wanting to spook the beast by throwing my cast while this guy was close in the area and possibly throwing his own at any moment, I entered into dilemma-mode: do I cast and risk spooking or wait and risk having it caught by another? Dilemmas often accompany extraordinary circumstances, and so realizing this I chose the former risk.

I cast; the other fisherman cast, and I watched as our flies bobbed on the water. My fly was closer as I was closer in general to the fish, and I saw movement beneath the glassy surface. The fish made a move toward the flies, but it was not obvious to which it moved or by which it was tempted. The lack of my own confidence birthed the assumption that the movement was intended for the other fly. I pulled my fly off the water and laid it back down far upstream to regroup. The fish had not spooked yet and neither had it been hooked; I hung on to that as my singular hope that I was still in the game of at least hooking the fish. I redressed my fly, checked my tippet, recast and again watched as my request drifted over. A quick, soft sip that was barely discernible in the riffle suggested I ought to tighten the line and set the hook. I did and found that I was now in stage-two of being in over my head. Hooking the fish was a challenge balanced on luck; landing the fish, now, was a challenge balanced on skill.

I had fought some strong fish before, fish that make reels sing and water boil. They became minnows the moment I hooked up with this fish. The battle consisted of a schizophrenic pendulum of screaming runs both away and toward me and moments of calm where I felt the weight of the fish, but not its fury. This was going to take a while, I knew. I grew older during the fight, I know that, but I also grew wiser. The fish was, whether it knew it or not, patient with me. I made a few mistakes and probably should have lost the fish several times, but somehow the hook remained implanted and my line stayed a singular piece. I began to think that I might actually land this....

And I did. Unbelievably I did. I not only somehow--miraculously--was blessed that night to have this particular fish swim by me, but managed to get it to take my fly. Beyond that is more on most days than I can convince myself is true--I brought that fish to hand and raised it out of the water for a closer look. Tired but noble, with fire in its eyes and colors seeming to radiate outward from deep within it, the fish was finally captured. I had imaginations about the beauty of the fish before that moment, but there is always more to be appreciated about a fish like this once it is cradled in your hand. Indeed, this was the catch of a lifetime, the fish of a lifetime.

That my wife. I "landed" her on May 11th 2007 at Covenant Presbyterian at 6:30pm, but knew long before that wedding night that I was really the one captured by her.

I love you, Cheryl!

Bragging for a Friend

While I was toiling away at work this past Sunday, I received an update via text message from (the evil) Facebook letting me know my friend had uploaded some photos. I looked over these photos and my coworkers watched me smile and turn jealousy-green. I had to brag on his behalf here, especially since the story I demanded from him shortly after I saw the photos is so good. Here are Matt's words (with photos following):

"I had been hunting this big trout for about 30 minutes. He had been biting and snapping at the other fish I had hooked. I floated a small hopper into the riffles, a 5-6 inch trout parr took it, and the the Fat Man immediately struck the Little Boy. I waited about 90 seconds for Fat Man to swallow Little Boy, then fully tightened the line and hung on for dear life. He fought for about 10 minutes. He made two pretty long runs right when I tried to land him. I had to borrow a kid's net because I typically don't carry one...should probably change that next time at Westover. Wicked fun.

The other rainbows were good sizes as well (14-16 inches). Dry flies were the only successful ones yesterday, although scuds apparently work pretty well at Westover. Successful dries were small cracklebacks, 'hoppers, and white midges."

Good job, Matt! I'm sure I'm not the only jealous one--that is a beautiful fish (and a gorgeous Sage/Ross pair-up)! And Go Cards!

Where he went and more information: Westover Farms

Friday, October 1, 2010


I just wanted to thank everyone for "Following" my little blog. I know Google Reader has limited space to quickly display updates, so thanks for spending some of that front space on my stuff. Thank you especially to Josh Shock and my mother and wife for most recently following and to Chris and Bill for your comments. I'll try to keep you all entertained and wishing you were out fishing!